Puca By The Numbers — April, May, June

WRITTEN BY

Hello PucaFam!

We're back with another installment of Puca by the Numbers. For the uninitiated, in this article series, we look over our platform statistics and discuss the platform health. You can find previous reports here and here. Let's dive right in.

Total Points in the System
127,116,820 (-2,763,999)

Total Registered Members
178,137 (+999)

Available Points
80,572,660 (-6,006,453)

Owners of Available Points
14,829 (-979)

"Active Points" are now "Available Points"

Before talking about these numbers, I wanted to do a little house cleaning. In previous installments, we've used the phrases "Active Points" and "Active Users" to describe the points that are in available in the system. This has been a stumbling block for some because the word "active" implies that the members are regularly trading. Because this implication can be misleading and since we're going to be talking about a group of members who are actively sending today, I've changed the verbiage. "Active Points" is now "Available Points" and "Active Members" is now "Owners of Available Points."

To give a little refresher on what these numbers mean, the "Available Points" are the number of points that can be traded for—even though there are 127 million points in the system, only 80 million available for trade and the rest are dormant. This is an important figure because it reflects the actual size of the economy, which is smaller (and more efficient) than it looks if you mistakenly focus on the 127 million number. The "Owners of Available Points" number is based on non-dormant Member accounts (anyone who's logged in over the last six months). You can read more about the details of this in previous installments. Ok, onto the numbers.

Falling Available Points and Escrow

One of the things that really pops out to me from the numbers above is the significant drop in Available Points, from about 86 million to 80 million. That's about a 7% drop. As I mentioned above, a smaller available point pool means that our economy becomes more efficient. You can see this in action when you consider points in escrow.

Points in escrow are the points tied up in pending trades. Sometimes we look at these numbers to gauge the health of the platform. The higher the points in escrow, the higher the trade activity. The other way to look at points in escrow is that it shrinks the available point pool. What I mean by this is that even though we have 80 million available points, not all 80 million are truly available since some are tied up in escrow. With our points in escrow number floating around 8 million points, we actually only have 72 million points available. We estimate that a healthy system has about 25% of the available points in escrow. This drop in Available Points has caused a bump in our percentage of points in escrow, increasing from 9% to 10%. This is an overall positive effect!

Contraction and Confidence

Above I talked a bit about the drop in available points and what effects that had on the economy; what I haven't addressed yet is what happened. Why did our available points drop by 8 million? This drop can be attributed to two things, which I will expand on below.

1) Point Destruction

A good portion of this was attributed to point destruction. We had a bump in our point destruction numbers because of a certain member who burned one million points on a sweepstakes and overall it was a good quarter for point destruction. 

2) Drop in "Owners of Active Points"

The other reason for the drop in available points is that nearly one thousand (979) member's points went dormant in this period. That's about 6% of the Active Point Owners. Keep in mind that this is not something that happens overnight. To go dormant your account has been dormant for six months—this means that most of these members have not accessed their account since February. The numbers can now reveal these dormant accounts because they've officially gone dormant in the system. That being said, there are also other indications of a contracting Member base. For example, the graph below shows the Unique senders month-by-month since January:

The Spartans of Sending

You can trace the unique senders on the blue line if you want to follow along. There were 702 unique senders in January and this number fell to 501 in June. That's a pretty significant drop—about 29%. I'm tempted to be bummed out by this drop in unique senders, but here's the thing that makes me smile: Those 500 members are sending cards to over 1,200 people! This number is actually not very different than the amount that 700 members were sending to (1,400). This core group of senders (the PucaTribe) is really holding down the fort!

What this says to me is that although our unique senders are trending downward, the confidence level of these remaining senders is much higher. The trade number show a similar trend. Let's look at the number of trades over the last few months:

In May, trades climbed and then dropped off in June. Judging from this graph it would seem that trade velocity in April and June was worse than in February; however, if you look at the number of points traded all three months were an improvement over February! You can see this in the graph below:

There are fewer trades but higher points, which means higher quality trades. We haven't seen this many points being traded since October of last year. This graph is where the confidence of that small group of senders—the PucaTribe as I like to call us—is expressed. Instead of sending smaller items, they are sending things like Mox Sapphire (CE), Masterpiece Sol Rings, and dual lands among other things. This is a really good thing.

What Do We Make of This?

On one hand, a shrinking member base sounds bad, but on the other hand a smaller PucaTrade has "felt" more effective. You'll often find core members going on vacation mode to save their points so that they can afford something big. If they don't do this then other people will snatch up their promotions as soon as they have points for them. This has happened to me a number of times; I would exit vacation mode to allow someone to hit me with a trade and I'd get another trade that I wasn't expecting! Part of the reason for this is that high promotions have become more scarce.

Without throwing even more numbers at you, we've seen a significant decline in promotions in June. I believe this is because people are waiting for the new feature to promote cards. As soon as that feature is finished, I believe we'll see a wave of juicy promotions ripe for the picking. As it stands, right now is actually a good time to promote. If you put a decent promotion out there now (150–180%), chances are very high that it will be filled. I've done some looking around and there are not many promotions at that level for cards over 500 pp index price.

How Can We Improve?

While some are finding success on PucaTrade at the moment, a shrinking member base is not sustainable. Ultimately, we need to inspire growth while keeping the balance we've currently struck. As I detailed above, for the core members PucaTrade is "feeling" better. This is evident in the anecdotal evidence above but also in the confidence level shown in the numbers. We just need to now expand that PucaTribe to include other.

One of the key things that we can do to bring about growth is to raise the level of efficiency of our platform: How easy it to use the platform to convert cards you don't want into cards you need. I believe that the promotion fee restructure is one way to do this. It allows members to freely promote with no upfront cost. This will increase the number of promotions available and the card flow. Look for some development updates middle-end of this month. We are in the testing phases of the promotion redesign and things are looking good.

Conclusion

Every time I look at these numbers I'm grateful for the band of traders who make this site an awesome community to be a part of. I know we have a lot of work to do and there are plenty of bottlenecks to slow us down, but we've been fighting the good fight. I'm excited about the promotion redesign and really excited about some of the other things we've queued up for the future. I will talk to you in a few weeks with a sneak peek of the new promotion stuff. Thank you for reading.

Give and Let Give. 

Jonathan Medina (@Medina_MTG) is a casual Magic player and lover of people. He has a long history of writing for various Magic sites. He's currently the Director of PucaTrade, and a semi-regular writer at GatheringMagic.com. You can find him on Twitter at @Medina_MTG

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